NOTRE DAME, Ind. – David Rivers heard the music rising during his halftime speech after induction into Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor. The former Irish All-American point guard kept going. The music got louder. So did Rivers.
Finally, after nearly eight minutes of thanks from Rivers, Syracuse emerged from the locker room for second half warmups. And still, Rivers kept talking for a few seconds more as the Orange took the court, one of the program’s all-time greats whipping up the student section before exiting.
Like everything else inside Purcell Pavilion on Saturday, Notre Dame operated on its own schedule.
When it was done, Notre Dame had routed Syracuse 84-66, snapping a four-game skid against Jim Boeheim on the strength of a career-high 30 points from V.J. Beachem. More importantly, the Irish (17-3, 6-1) stayed atop in the ACC as the Orange (11-9, 3-4) sunk further as chants of “NIT” came down in the final minutes.
“A great win for us,” said head coach Mike Brey. “You can win five in a row, you can also lose three in a row in a heartbeat.”
Notre Dame led by as much as 22 points during the second half while Syracuse led for all for 24 seconds during the entire game. The final box score revealed how good the Irish attack was against the 2-3 Orange zone, which at times looked more like five guys standing around on a basketball court.
The Irish finished with 20 assists against 11 turnovers. They out-rebounded the Orange 39-28. They shot well from distance, going 11-of-26 with Beachem and Matt Farrell combining to go 9-of-15. On top of all that, Notre Dame’s 15-of-16 foul shooting left Syracuse little room to come back, something the Irish have allowed often in ACC play to date.
“It was kind of nice to have a little bit a cushion even though I never think in this league a 15-18 point lead is gonna be 20,” Brey said. “We were blessed today.”
Put Farrell’s performance atop that list after putting up 15 points and nine assists, which included a behind-the-back to Beachem for a first-half dunk and a three-quarters court bullet to Austin Torres for a layup in the second half. It all helped Bonzie Colson (14 points), Steve Vasturia (11 points) and even Martinas Geben (7 points, 4 rebounds) balance Notre Dame's humming offense.
"We're confident in what we do in the offense that we run and the guys that we have," Farrell said. "I told V.J. before the game, he should be drooling right now because I'm gonna get in there and I'm gonna find you. Every time you touch the ball, I need you to shoot. He did that."
Basically, when Farrell drove it collapsed the Syracuse zone in every way. A Hall of Fame coach took notice.
“I think he’s one of the most improved players that I’ve seen come into this league,” Boeheim said. “Obviously, Notre Dame is a tremendous basketball team.”
The Irish looked it all afternoon, starting in front of a sellout crowd that included the student body for the first time in more than a month. This was the first ACC game Notre Dame logged at home with school in session.
“I knew our students couldn’t wait to see us,” Brey said. “They’ve been watching us roll on break. They couldn’t wait to get in the doors. They were fabulous, as was the rest of the building. I gotta believe, from what I understand, we’ll be sold out the rest the way.”
With Virginia and Duke next on the home slate and Notre Dame in contention for an ACC title, Brey might be right.